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Tour Diary: She-Devils – June 1999, Weekends on the I-10

 

...and for my next trick...June 11, 1999
Venue: Sluggo’s
City: Pensacola, FL

No luxury van for us this time. The She-Devils and I crammed ourselves into my Toyota extracab pickup for our scaled down weekend mini-tour. In another astounding display of my packing ability, I squeezed all of our gear into the truck bed, although the flat fiberglass bed cap wouldn’t quite close over the bass drum. We pulled out of Baton Rouge promptly at 4:00, me driving, Pinky as co-pilot, and the Countess reclining in the back seat. We learned quickly that a horizontal posture beat vertical for any extended period of time in the tiny backseat, if you wanted to avoid backache, that is.

This wasn’t a good weekend for road food. Exhibit A: The Subway inside the Bay St. Louis exit gas station. In keeping with trends, they now offer all their sandwiches as “wraps”. The tortilla format didn’t make the veggie delight any more delightful, believe me. We hit torrential rains outside Mobile, which slowed us down to 30 mph at times. We were mostly worried about our gear, since the cap was still slightly open.

Our first impression of Pensacola was of a showboating motorist losing control and spinning off the highway exit ramp 50 feet in front of us, narrowly missing two light poles. The local mentality didn’t improve much from there. Upon arrival, the rain had ceased, and our instruments were amazingly dry. We found Sluggo’s on a clean downtown street, so much cleaner than our hometown of Baton Rouge that the Countess was temporarily disoriented. Sluggo’s has moved across the street from its former location since my last visit as a roadie for a punk rock band called The Habitual Sex Offenders (that was 1993, when I won their coveted Roadie Of The Year award). Their current space is a huge, three level building which formerly was Pensacola’s first strip club. Downstairs is an intimate bar area and lounge. Upstairs there’s the stage, a raised dance floor, pool room, and second bar. The theme is dark and punk, with bigger-than-life cut outs of people on the walls, nasty old carpet on the stage, and red and white Sputnik lights.

Ten seconds before we tripped the PA breaker.The other two bands hadn’t shown up yet, so after unloading our stuff, the She-Devils and I set out to explore the neighborhood. A throng of young punx sat outside the door, with nothing to do at night but lure the police into harassing them. Apparently the cops had nothing better to do, either, and lurked around in their clean-cut fashion, flirting with the She-Devils and scowling at the punx.

We walked over to Seville Quarter, a bar someone had suggested we play. We found a brightly lit, frat-yuppie meat market. People gave us discouraging looks through the windows, and the door person didn’t exactly throw the door open wide for us. After mocking their printed dress code for a while, we got bored of the cheesy venue and returned to Sluggo’s. That’s when we saw, in the Sluggo’s window, the latest in our string of hilarious mis-billings: Rawspeech and the She-Devils. My nickname has already become “Ruff Bitch” so this one wasn’t so bad.

The turn-out was surprisingly light for free beer night. Some local boys joined the Countess and Pinky in their booth. The boys held several beers each, and kept an anxious count of the time. “Come on,” one encouraged the other. “Only 50 minutes left!” The free beer stopped flowing at 11:00, and these boys were working themselves into a tizzy over the imminent drought.

We went upstairs to check with the sound guy about when we should go on. The other bands, Glitch and Gift to the Greedy, still hadn’t shown up! I’ve since learned that the DC based GTTG has broken up. The sound guy, Ryan (aka Rymodee), plays with the well-known Pensacola band This Bike is a Pipe Bomb. A dedicated vegan, he has a sign up prohibiting meat in the sound booth.

Rymodee et al.We actually sold a CD after our sound check; a Sluggo’s first according to Rymodee. Pinky and I chatted with the young engaged couple who bought the CD. The girl is a big Bon Jovi fan, so hopefully I’ll be filed on her shelf real close to Jon. Meanwhile, the Countess was treated to an exhibit of some local boys’ tattoos, and descriptions of their friends’ tattooed dicks. One friend reportedly has a TNT tattoo, to make his, um…member resemble a stick of dynamite. Another sports the USDA seal of approval. The Countess asked what the local girls think of these tattoos and one guy said, “I don’t know. I guess they think it’s pretty cool.”

We took the stage around midnight. The set went pretty well, although attendance was sparse. At one especially chaotic moment, the strap fell off my guitar followed closely by the breaker tripping on the P.A. power amp circuit. We finished up “Mary Hawkins” at stage volume, and then explained to the audience that the lyrics weren’t that important anyway.

Downstairs after the show, we met a woman named Susan who told us about attending some hardcore religious revival that’s been going on in Pensacola for several years now. They raise such mob energy that people fall down in convulsions all over the hall. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for that. When Susan inexplicably laid the “foolish consistency” Emerson quote on us, I suddenly felt like I was in the movie Next Stop Wonderland.

June 12, 1999
Venue: The Chukker
City: Tuscaloosa, AL

She-Devils basking in the sun.What with the Countess and I being “straight-edge” (what are we, Rollins?), Pinky has no choice but to take up our alcohol consumption slack. On an unrelated note, while everyone else ate breakfast at the Waffle House, Pinkerton spent the morning repeatedly vomiting and dry heaving in the parking lot. Anyway, next stop was Pensacola Beach, where the sand is white and the water is green. We set our towels down next to a lifeguard tower and not far from a stage where professional karaoke singers were shamelessly polluting the beach with pop country and N’Sync covers. When they played a song about average Americans, hung over Pinky was almost aggravated enough to pull her face out of the sand and start an incident. The countess and I met a sand sculptor who was working on an octopus. Pinky saw an enormous fish, which made her even more homesick for her pet fish, Goldie, who was recovering from a case of fin and tail rot at the time. While de-sanding ourselves in the parking lot, we bumped into Altaer Believes drummer (and one-time By June guest) Sims Chadwick and his girlfriend Kim. Once we returned to the mainland, it was a quick trip to the gas station for fuel and more vomiting before we headed north to T-town.

Me hiding from the sun.It was another annoying drive. First, we spent over an hour stuck on the Mobile Bay bridge. Occasionally an emergency vehicle would pass us, but we never found out what happened. That wasn’t nearly so bad as lunch, though. Exhibit B: If you’re ever passing through Thomasville, AL, do yourself a huge favor and stay the hell away from Pizza Inn. They don’t know an olive from an onion, and their mushrooms are canned. They serve meat sauce with the bread sticks. I think their wait staff flunked out of Pizza Hut Academy, forcing them to lower their career goals to Pizza Inn.

A few dainty bites of bread stick revived Pinky enough to drive, and when we arrived in the Tusc around 9:pm, she was ready for her morning coffee from the Books a Million. Properly caffeinated, the She-Devils were ready for the Chukker. The Chukker felt cozy and familiar after our long drive, with its dark stage, pool tables, and the same nude photography exhibit we’d seen when we played in March. One striking new feature was the LED display counting down minutes, seconds and milliseconds till the marriage of Ludovic, Chukker proprietor, to one of the bartenders.

Pinky at the wheel.Just as I was gearing up to whoop the Countess’ ass at darts, John and Ham, our premier Tuscaloosa fans, walked in. John’s former band, Spaceman Bill and the Groovy Gravy, opened for us on our previous visit to the Tusc. Their new band 49.95 was supposed to open this time, but the drummer had just split. They helped us load in our gear, then started requesting songs for our sound check.

Although Tuscaloosa is essentially a ghost town during the summer, we put on a good show and had a lot of fun. It helped to have a few fans in the audience.

Since she hadn’t eaten all day, Pinky was starving after the show. Once we rescued the countess from being cornered by an enthusiastic new fan in the bathroom, we headed to a Greek restaurant called Hooligan’s. It was one of our few all-around positive dining experiences on this trip. We tiptoed into Lance’s house at 3 AM.

I'm pretending that I know how to read.The Sabbath, June 14
Drive day

Lance got up early and headed toward campus, where he does a Sunday morning country music show. Mostly he features old-timey stuff. If you find yourself in the Tusc on a Sunday, don’t miss it.
Exhibit C: A Shoney’s somewhere in Mississippi. The burgers tasted like soy, and it took forever to get condiments even though we were the only people in there. Then again, the waitress was entertaining, even improvising a simple, catchy song about the Countess’ dripping milkshake.

We also saw a mysterious convoy of four school buses full of boxes. One was towing two pick-up trucks, and another bus was being towed. They followed us five miles off the interstate to Lacombe, LA, where everyone at the gas station looked like inbred prison escapees. The bus caravan turned around at the gas station and headed back toward the highway without even stopping. Naturally, we didn’t ask any questions.

June 25, 1999
Venue: The Sidebar
City: Lafayette, LA

I got a call from Sidebar owner Greg a couple of days before the show. He was freaked out because our scheduled opening act, ‘Clip (aka Geoff Johnston) had reportedly thrown his guitar and been a potty-mouth at a recent Sidebar open mic night. Naturally, being a comedian, Geoff had no choice but to tap into the irony of the definitive anti-rocker engaging in rock n’ roll antics. After Greg was assured that ‘Clip wouldn’t alienate every cigar smoking lawyer in Lafayette (he has to leave an audience for us, right?) the show was still on.

The Countess and 'Clip add some class to the Sidebar.Once again, The Countess, Pinky and I were crammed into my truck. Once again it rained. Whoever schedules the interstate highway construction must know our schedule. It took us 40 minutes to drive the last five miles in from Breaux Bridge. The Sidebar was very nice place. We set up in an atrium-style room with a 4-story ceiling and a fountain. There was a very real danger of Pinky falling back into a man-made stream and being electrocuted by white Christmas lights.

One downside was the Sidebar’s lack of a P.A. Against my resolutions, I dragged my sound system all the way from BR. Actually, I stowed it away in the back of Marky Spitzers station wagon. After loading in (and getting rained on for the third time that day) it was time for our much anticipated complimentary dinner from the Sidebar. Allow me to direct your attention to Exhibit D. This was possibly the worst free food I’ve ever had, though I’ve probably paid for worse. I had the “chicken kabobs”, which was basically some really dry chicken meat in a styrofoam bowl full of dry rice. The food was all downhill from there.

Geoff Johnston: not a public menace.The next exciting quasi-controversy was that another group wanted to play the Sidebar that night. A performance art troupe called Women in the Round had sent a contract which was never signed. Nevertheless, they were on their way to Lafayette from Texas. They might have had a shot at playing had they not wanted $700 in compensation/expenses (about three times what we were making). I was looking forward to a big She-Devil vs. Round Women fight, but the Texans arrived and left without incident (and without me even noticing), each getting a free bowl of food (I’m sure that went a looong way to mend up any misunderstandings).

The ‘Clip set was brilliant. We were brilliant. Fans were rocked. CDs were sold. Following the show, we went to Geoff and Sherie’s house to dig through the next day’s garage sale items. They had to get rid of all their stuff because at the end of the month Geoff was moving to Austin and Sherie to California via Japan. Sherie gave me the first REM album on vinyl and Geoff gave me his old wah pedal. Pinky and the Countess each got some groovy clothes. She-Devil roadie/boyfriend Mark spent $2 on an engineless motorcycle.

June 26, 1999
Venue: The Logon C@fe
City: Beaumont, TX

The Countess and I woke up around 10:00 am on Mark’s living room floor. Despite the on again/off again rain, we made a trip to nearby Lake Martin (Swamp Martin, depending). We saw several huge alligators, several nutria families, a couple of turtles and countless birds. It’s perfect for lazy tourist types because you can drive right along the edge of the swamp.

After some vintage clothes shopping, burrito eating and potential venue scoping, we headed west for Beaumont. In retrospect, we should have killed more time in Lafayette, because Beaumont couldn’t have been more boring. It’s no wonder that all the people I even remotely know in Beaumont had plans to not be in Beaumont on the weekend we played. If I were them, I’d probably leave every weekend. Scratch that. I’d leave permanently.

Even the moon isn't safe from advertisements.The Logon Cafe itself was actually really nice. It’s connected to a computer store/internet service provider. They were very friendly and accommodating, particularly cyber-guru and band booker Jason. The Logon food was a welcome change of pace. But what do people do in Beaumont? When asked, the girl working behind the counter said that her college friends meet up at someone’s house and get drunk every night. I would never have guessed that there was a college anywhere near there. We tried to take a walk, but there were no sidewalks. We tried to see a movie, but we couldn’t find show time listings and there really wasn’t anything at the Beaumont cine-plex that we were dying to see. The highlight of the evening was finding my latest name misspelling in a local entertainment rag: Ross Deach. I think that was the highlight of the evening. Scary, eh?

After what seemed like an eternity, we began the set. At first we were trying for a more conversational quiet and mellow sound, but it severely lacked energy. Eventually, we decided to play our normal style and everything went fine, at least from how it sounded to us. I think that many of the patrons were genuinely confused. Equally distracting was the fact that we were broadcasting live audio and pictures over the internet. Maybe we were confusing people in Bali too. Three sets and several repeated songs later we tore down, ate a piece of Tiramisu (word of the day: zabaglione), and ventured off into the extreme east Texas night. The moral of the story: never play Beaumont.

The Sundown Inn: it looks much better during the day.After stopping at our third full motel we were finally told that every room in town was booked up for, of all things, a Jehovah’s Witness convention. We hit the road at 1:30 am and headed back into the great state of Louisiana. We stopped off at a casino hotel in Lake Charles only to learn that just about every room in that town was also full. I’m boggled by the idea that Lake Charles is a big weekend vacation destination. What? People who live in towns where the water doesn’t glow in the dark have to go to this industrial cesspool to get away from it all? At 3:30 we finally stopped in Jennings, LA. The Sundown Inn (the second place we tried) was quite possibly the seediest motel I’ve ever stayed at. The Indian woman behind the bullet-proof glass did little more than grunt at us as we rented the room, but it was either that or nod off on the highway and wind up in the swamp.


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